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The Irony of our Earliest Manuscripts

                It’s a little hard to get one’s mind around the irony of our early manuscripts, as I was alluding to in my earlier post.   To reconstruct the “original” text of the New Testament – by which, for my purposes here, I mean the text that the author himself produced and put into the public sphere by “publishing” (or sending) it – we would love to have lots of early manuscripts to look at.  Unfortunately, we don’t have lots of early manuscripts.  94% of our manuscripts are 800 years after the fact.  We have only a handful of manuscripts, at best, that can plausibly be dated to the second century.   These are all *highly* fragmentary (the oldest is just a scrap with a few verses on it).  And even these are decades after the authors were all dead and buried. The problem is that every time a manuscript gets copied, mistakes – either intentional or accidental – are introduced.   And then when that manuscript serves as an exemplar for the next scribe, its mistakes are [...]

2020-04-03T19:45:17-04:00May 2nd, 2012|Bart's Debates, New Testament Manuscripts|

For the “Original” Text: What Kinds of Manuscripts Would We Need?

                As I pointed out in my previous post, in my debates with Dan Wallace I have stressed that we simply don’t have the kinds of manuscripts we need in order to know with certainty (let alone complete certainty!) what the authors of the New Testament originally wrote.   Dan will typically argue that we have so many more manuscripts of the New Testament than for any other ancient author, that of course we can know the originals.  My reply is that what we have – even though we have 5560 or so Greek manuscripts – is not enough.   Out of some frustration, Dan or a member of the audience during the question –answer period sometimes asks, “Look!  What exactly do you want?!? ” It’s a fair question.  What do I want? Of course, what I really want are the originals.  But it seems unlikely that I’ll ever be getting them.   They disappeared long ago, probably within a couple of centuries of their being written, at the latest (the great textual scholar of the early third [...]

2020-04-03T19:45:26-04:00May 1st, 2012|Bart's Debates, New Testament Manuscripts|
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